A caregiver is anyone who provides help to another person in need. There are over 65 million Americans who provide care to a loved one. ”There is definitely a changing age structure within families today,” says Neal Cutler, PhD, the executive director of the Center on Aging for the Motion Picture and Television Fund in Woodlawn Hills, Calif. “Its cause is simply greater longevity.”
With more Americans living well beyond their 70s, more adult children are now left in a position where they have to be caregivers for their aging parents. Are you a caregiver, or do you know one? Is it a possibility that you will be one in the near future? Look at this list for the things you need to know and be prepared for, some sooner than you may think!
Recognize when there’s a need…
…& know when to intervene.
Pay attention when visiting your parents‘ home – how is their appearance? Are they keeping up with their hygiene and washing clothes? Have they lost or gained weight? How does their home look? Pay attention to anything that is being neglected, like washing dishes or a change in how they keep their house – forgetfulness and neglect can be signs of depression, dementia, or other problems that need medical attention.
7 warning signs of health problems
Look at the best solution
What are options for the best care for your parents and their state of health? There are many choices, including home care, day programs, independent housing, assisted living, retirement communities, and more. You will need to make a choice based on the level of service needed, the monetary costs, location, and other factors.
Check the Eldercare Locator from the U.S. Administration on Aging. Searching by the type of service you need and your zip code will provide a list of agencies (such as your local Area Agency on Aging) that can help you find and evaluate local facilities. If the person you’re caring for is on the younger side, try starting with the local United Way, which can help sort through services available in their community.
Redefine parent-child roles
Know when your parents should stop driving, etc, and how to deal with taking on more of the “parent” role sometimes.
Read some stats and ways to intervene when needed.
Only caregiver out of your siblings?
To avoid resentment (and worse), hash out details at the beginning such as:
– Are you all OK with spending your inheritance on hiring help, or is anyone willing to take on some of the work?
– Who will deal with doctors, who handles finances, who brings in groceries?
– How often will each of you visit, take mom or dad out to lunch or to see their friends?
It is necessary to sit down and talk to your parents about their will, finances, and other information, so that you know their preferences before it becomes too late. It is important to make sure their will, advanced directives, etc. are done before they get to the point that it is medically not possible.
Some things that are needed to be discussed:
– Medical power of attorney
– Living wills and advance directives
Finding good medical care and community services
Family Caregiver Alliance
FCA is a public voice for caregivers. Our pioneering programs – information, education, services, research and advocacy – support and sustain the important work of families nationwide caring for loved ones with chronic, disabling health conditions.
LeadingAge’s Consumer Hub offers information and support to help people make the most of the aging experience. This includes a directory of not-for-profit organizations committed to meeting people’s needs and preferences as they age.
At Lotsa Helping Hands, Help is our middle name. We connect people through the power of community — whether you need help or you want to provide help. You may be caring for an ill loved one, an aging parent, a child with special needs or a veteran.
Help each parent according to their mental/physical needs
See what to do when parents resist your efforts to help, and see suggestions for helping them, such as how to advocate for them.
Are you parents showing bad behavior, such as rage or abuse?
Healthy, whole living
Malnutrition in older adults can lead to various health concerns, including:
– A weak immune system, which increases the risk of infections
– Poor wound healing
– Muscle weakness, which can lead to falls and fractures
In addition, malnutrition can lead to further disinterest in eating or lack of appetite — which only makes the problem worse.
Older adults who are seriously ill and those who have dementia or have lost weight are especially vulnerable to the effects of poor nutrition.
How To Help Your Aging Parent Avoid Mental Decline – encourage exercise, even with physical ailments. It will help.
You might want to find a local church that has an active senior adult program, which will usually involve meals out, fellowships, holiday celebrations, ministry to the community, and even trips.
Emotional & physical stress for caregiver
Make sure you take care of your own mental health.
Caring for your parents can be stressful, especially with the way things work in today’s society – for instance, shorter hospital stays. Not to mention the fact that many caregivers are not professionals in health care. It is important to watch for signs of your own stress, such as feeling tired most of the time, feeling overwhelmed and irritable, sleeping too much or too little, gaining or losing a lot of weight, or losing interest in activities you used to enjoy. There are many ways to help with stress, such as organizations and groups to be a part of, and other suggestions, such as making time to spend with friends, defining your job, and taking breaks.
Become an optimist
Take care of yourself
Looking at end of life decisions
There are many ways to make sure you know your parents’ wishes for their deaths. Read how to have a conversation with them about the topic, and more ways to learn about living wills and advance directives.
If you know what to talk about, what to ask, where to look, more than likely you will find gaps in their plans. Starting now, you have time to help them fill in those gaps.
How to Care for Aging Parents, by Virginia Morris
The book that answers the questions you hoped you’d never have to ask, How to Care for Aging Parents is a compassionate and thorough guide that leads caregivers through the rocky terrain of parent care.
“An excellent guide for dealing with the financial, legal, medical, and psychological issues facing women and men as they care for their aging parents…An invaluable resource [that] offers an up-to-date guide to hard-to-find services and subsidies.”
— Robert N. Butler, M.D.,
Founder, National Institute on Aging
“A compassionate guide of encyclopedic proportion.”
— The Washington Post
How to Care for Aging Parents offers gentle support while tackling all the tough subjects. You’ll learn your options, get help sorting through the confusion, and receive reassurance that you’re doing okay.
The Selfish Pig’s Guide to Caring, by Hugh Marriott